Melbourne-based artist, illustrator and self-confessed foodie, Yan Yan Candy Ng looks to the world around her to inspire her creative process. Her innate love of culinary treats is so profound that even her friends call her Candy because she’s always thinking about food!

Born in Hong Kong, Candy moved to Melbourne to expand her creative opportunities, and her works have been exhibited across shows in Australia, New York and Berlin. “As a visual person, my art is a reflection of my self-awareness, others and the world around me,” says Candy. “It helps me to navigate, process and unload my own emotions and thoughts.”

So, how do you become a more creative person and reap the mindfulness benefits of creativity? Here, Candy shares her tips for developing your own creative process and finding inspiration all around you.

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A Creative Start

For Candy, her creative spark was ignited after a variety of personal struggles at a young age which led to her using drawing as an outlet for escapism and channelling anxiety. “When I was a kid I had speech sound disorders and social anxiety – I was extremely shy about speaking, bullied by other kids and I was really nervous to make new friends,” she says. “So I guess initially, I used drawing as an ‘excuse’ to escape because it was the only way I knew how to deal with the world.”

In Candy’s teen years, being creative was no longer just an outlet for her anxiety – it became an important tool for helping her develop her identity and sense of self. “In high school my curiosity grew and I was able to overcome my own anxiety and step out of my comfort zone to explore, learn and solve day-to-day problems,” says Candy. “Creativity has been a gateway for me to express my voice, connect with others and grow as a person. My relationship with creativity is like a close friendship. It’s like someone I’m comfortable to share my thoughts and emotions with.”

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A Clear Creative Process Is Key

While there’s no strict formula for creativity, Candy suggests starting with a clear goal first. “My creative process always has a clear objective,” she says. “I like to break down a big task into a list of achievable small tasks. There is something satisfying about checking things off your list, so in some way this habit encourages me to keep going.”

So what does this list look like? “My general to-do list for a creative project would include research, write down ideas, read my to-do list again, sketch out my ideas, colour experiments and then decide on the final outcome,” she says.

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Take the Time to Get Into the Flow

Before throwing yourself into your creative process, give yourself some space – literally – to get your creative juices flowing, and that includes removing distractions. “If I want to be in flow, I prepare my environment in advance,” says Candy, who is influenced by the advice of James Clear [author of New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits] to reduce the number of steps to achieve good habits and to increase the number of steps between you and bad habits. “So if I want to focus on getting a drawing done, I would usually have all my things ready and set out on the table such as headphones, tea and snacks. And I will put my distraction (aka my phone) away in another room,” she says.

Giving yourself a clean and tidy space enables you to focus and pour your creative energy into your project, which is important for helping you to take full advantage of the creative experience. “It’s important to focus when you’re creating your work because it helps you to fully experience the whole creative process,” she says. “You push through your fear and self-doubt and, ultimately, if you keep going you will have a rewarding experience.”

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Learn to Be Kind to Your Mind

Part of the beauty of getting into a creative mindset is that it can help you unearth thoughts, feelings and emotions that you didn’t even notice before, which is why it’s so important to go easy on yourself and let your mind wander while you fully embrace your creative project. In essence, let your ego and critical self take a back seat to your creative process.

“Being kind to your mind, for me, is about creating room for myself to slow down, breathe, recharge my energy and remind myself of my purpose,” says Candy. “This is part of my self-discovery journey, to check in, reflect and see how I’m doing. It helps me to understand myself better so I can get insights into actionable change for personal growth.” (For more tips, see Smiling Mind.)

Be Inspired by Your Experiences and Surroundings

From the adorable dog that you saw in the park the other day, to the delicious feast that you cooked for your family on the weekend, inspiration can be drawn from any and every experience in your day-to-day life. “Lots of things inspire me, including my personal experiences, overheard conversations, my surroundings, my own dreams and food I have eaten,” says Candy.

You don’t need to think too hard about what could inspire you – even a simple cup and saucer can be enough to get those creative juices flowing!

How to Harness Your Creative Mind

With many of us living busy lifestyles with seemingly endless to-do lists, we can be left feeling depleted and lacking the mental energy to undertake self-care activities. But did you know that tapping into your creative side can actually help you calm your mind?

“You can use creativity to support your mind by figuring out what works for you. Sometimes there are so many thoughts running around your mind and creativity can help sort out your thinking,” says Candy. “You can do this by challenging yourself to create every day, whether it’s through dancing, singing, writing, drawing or other forms of self-expression.”

On a personal note, Candy finds that her creative outlets are a tool for helping her to practise mindfulness. “My art is definitely a vehicle to help me process my emotions,” she says.

“Sometimes I think they’re a little bit like back seat passengers and I’m driving the campervan trying to navigate my world.”

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How to Become a More Creative Person

The key to unleashing your inner creativity is to start with an activity that’s simple and only takes a few minutes each day to complete. By taking baby steps, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed and pressured to complete a large creative task, such as a painting, and you’re more likely to achieve your creative goals. “Start with something small, like a visual diary, so you can draw daily or a few times a week just for yourself. In a month, you will have a book of many drawings. It is always about taking smaller steps to archive a bigger picture.”

Candy also suggests pencilling in regular catch-ups with your friends where you all work on your own creative tasks and encourage each other while having fun. “If you have a few like-minded friends, you can also meet to work on your own creative tasks,” she says. “You can keep each other accountable to get creative, remind each other to have a break and just have a good time.”

What To Try 

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